Friday, December 09, 2011

It's no small thing

Small talk is one of my worst things.

I am 34 years old and I'm still learning things about myself. That's what I love about my 30's, because I discover things about me that are inherently true, and then I just accept them, whereas I spent my 20's stumbling on to self-discoveries and then attempting to squelch them. "What's that, self? You don't want to go to Super Saturday? Well, that just can't be right because everyone in their right mind needs an adorable, hand-painted turkey! Even if your stenciled squares ARE crooked!" I just refused to listen. But now I do. And my self has made me realize that small talk gives me anxiety.

Case in point. When I go to the school, I get into the elevator with all the other parents and kids and look down, avoiding eye contact. I focus on giving compliments to the kids on their rain boots, their Spiderman shirt, their fancy hairdo. When we get into the classroom, I smile at people and say hello, but I don't know what to say to them. I just don't. If someone starts a conversation with me, I will certainly oblige, but I often say strange things that I regret later. In the play yard after school, I hide in a corner of the playground to avoid small talk. I try to call Lisa or Rachel, or I get Mila involved in an intense conversation (it isn't difficult these days, all I have to do is say "Katniss" or "Food, Inc." and she's off.) I will sometimes approach a mom or group of moms I know and awkwardly eavesdrop on their conversation until I hear a jump-in point: "I know! Baking pies from scratch IS crazy hard!" but that's definitely only if I'm feeling brave.

I've always tried to tell people that I'm shy, but they never believe me, especially after I've just spent the last 30 minutes telling them my life story. But I know now that there's a difference between being shy and feeling comfortable with people. I just don't feel comfortable approaching someone and discussing the weather or where they grew up, or how many children I have (which is actually QUITE the icebreaker, let me tell you.) What I really want to do is to be able to walk up to someone and say, "How crazy was that episode of Walking Dead?" or "Chris kicked my butt in Zumba last night," or "I'm starving, let's go get Diet Cokes and Thai!" I crave familiarity.

I've tried getting better at it, but it's just not really my thing. Do people think I'm a snob? Well, yes. That has happened many times. Do I give negative first impressions? Indeed I do. I feel sometimes like maybe I should carry a card that says "Friend me on Facebook" and pass it to people, so we can get to know each other online first. Is that crazy? I actually have quite a few friends on Facebook that I know more online than I do in real life. Don't get me wrong. I love and value my real-life relationships. They are everything. I am so grateful for the many, many friends that I've made here in NY, that have accepted me and broken through my shell, as it were. By not opening my mouth, I guess I'm probably missing out on lots of other potential friendships. But then sometimes I get burned when I make an attempt. Like the mother of Mila's friend who indirectly reamed me for pulling my kids out of school the week before Christmas break (I'm sorry, but where else but New York do kids only get a 1 week Christmas break? Redonkulous!) That ended that pleasant conversation at Starbucks pretty dang quick.

It's funny, because I see this shyness/awkwardness in some of my kids as well. Mila just downright ignores people when they say hello to her. It's almost comical. I have to say, "Mila. Mila. MILA. So-and-so just said hi to you. Did you hear her? Oh, you did..." That's probably a little more of her dad's anti-socialness/I'm-on-another-planet-that-exists-in-my-mind, though. Ethan is the most social person in the world, so who knows where that came from, then you get to the twins, and their teachers tell me they are the quietest ones in the class. "Are they always so nice and quiet at home?" they ask. After I've finished laughing hysterically, I say, "No, no, in fact, they are anti-quiet." So, you see? It's all about who you feel comfortable with.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Modern Mormon Woman

I'm over on Modern Mormon Men today, talking about why New Yorkers find me a wee bit strange. Check it out here...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Things I think about when I'm running, since I have to distract myself from the fact that I'm running

Central Park is so pretty. She's like that girl you love to hate who looks good in any circumstance. She's breathtaking when all dressed up in fall splendor, but still looks mysterious and inviting covered in a layer of mist and fog. She's shiny and resplendent on a sunny day and sultry and quiet after dark. And absolutely stunning covered with snow. I want to be Central Park when I grow up. But seriously, I love it so much.

"What in the world are you doing with all your free time now?" This is what I get asked by well-meaning people on a daily basis. Because, you know, I don't have a "job." In the summertime, I used to daydream about the day when all my kids would be at school, and I pictured myself exploring the lower east side, taking pictures with a fancy camera (which I don't even own), or sitting in a cafe in the West Village drinking hot chocolate while reading a novel of my choice. I even thought it might be fun to pound the pavement with a head shot and resume, in the quest to book a minivan commercial or recurring role on 30 Rock. In my mind's eye, all of these things were done while wearing comfortable yet stylish boots and sometimes a hat.

I now realize that I was suffering from delusions of grandeur because school has been going strong for weeks now and I'm lucky to have time to sit and write this blog post. Yes, it's cliche, we're all busy, I know, but wow. It might have something to do with the fact that I volunteered to be a class parent for two of my kids' classrooms. I also volunteer for recess duty and clean-up and all kinds of school-related activities. I guess the guilt of always using my fallback line: "Sorry, I have twins," has finally caught up with me. Then there's the fact that I just got a new church job planning and holding weekly activities for the 8-11 year old girls. Yes, weekly. They don't mess around in the hood. Oh, and I'm teaching an after school drama class for 9 kids from first to sixth grades. Finally, there's the fact that I still have four kids. Four kids who still need to eat dinner at night and wear freshly laundered clothing and reside in a relatively germ-free, non rodent-infested apartment. They go to school all day, but it's not like they're in college. And so there's your bubble burst about life after kids go to school!

However, I should say that I am able to do all of these things without being accompanied by four short legs and two insatiable appetites. And I am able to exercise. And eat lunch by myself (which I looooooove) and watch my stories without pausing it to go break up a Polly Pocket fight every 5 minutes. So yes, life is good. But no, I am not on a perma-vacation.

Speaking of exercise, I'm in week 3 of an 8 week fitness challenge that wants to kick my bootay, but I'm not going to let it because I'm an over-achieving perfectionist and if someone gives me a report card, then by gum, I'm going to get that gold star! Basically, I can't have any Diet Coke, no desserts or sweets, no eating after 8 PM, I have to exercise 5 times a week for 30 minutes and read my scriptures 15 minutes a day. In addition to those things, there's a different challenge each week such as "eat five servings of vegetables a day" which is the challenge for this week and I'm so sick of spinach smoothies I could scream. I do get one free day a week, where I can drink Diet Coke or eat cupcakes or eat a Diet Coke cupcake, all at 10 PM. I keep hiding treats throughout the week and now I'm worried I won't find them all on my free day tomorrow. Do you know what a life-changing event it is for me to not consume refined sugar? If you know me well at all, then you're already calling BS on this entire paragraph. But I promise you, I'm doing it! And I feel pretty good. And my willpower is a weak little muscle that has NEVER been flexed in my life and now it's getting stronger and stronger and I'm so proud of its growth.

And for the challenge, I've been going to Zumba. And I love it. I feel like I'm a dancer in there. And I'm so not. But my teacher is awesome and says that the weird faces I make in the mirror crack him up. And I tell him that I make the weird faces because we're doing all these sexy moves but when I watch myself trying to do the sexy moves and all I see is a sweaty, dripping, reddened face, I can't take myself seriously. I just can't. And so I pull crazy faces. And Nigel Lythgoe would be ashamed. But I do hit it hard sometimes. And I think NappyTabs would give me props, but then I tweak my back, I hit it so hard, and I regret that in the morning.

I had a dream last night where I was talking to an old friend from high school. I was telling him all about something that's been weighing on my mind the last few days and he just listened and it was nice. This friend shows up in my dreams all the time, I think maybe because my overly sentimental conscious self seeps into my subconsious a lot. It's always nice to talk to someone you feel comfortable with, that won't make any judgements about you or your life decisions. I miss old friends like that. I'm not really friends with that guy any more because we dated and I think that's sad, and also something to file under things-to-warn-my-daughters-about. Or maybe it's just because married women in general don't have friends that are men. Except I do. Is it because I'm a theater person? Another topic for another day.

Well, great. Now it's 11:20 and I've got laundry to do because someone wet the bed (rhymes with "goosy") and a spinach smoothie to make and Revenge isn't going to watch itself.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Firsts is a Weird Word

As I reflect upon how crazy last week was, I realize that it was also a week full of firsts. In no particular order, here they are:

It was the first time all four of my children went to school from 8:30 AM to 3 PM. And yes, Ethan scored major awesome points after I noticed what he was doing in this photo.

It was the first time Lucy and Lane had been separated for more than about 2 hours, with the exception of the 24 hours they spent apart when they were 1 week old and Lane was at home while Lucy was still in the hospital.

It was the first time that I went to see a movie all by myself at 11:30 AM. I felt like someone was going to come in and arrest me or something for being a negligent mother, but no one did, and the five of us in the theater cried together while watching Harry Potter 7. Afterwards, I had a text conversation with Kacy about all of the new things I was thinking about after the movie. Just because I'm a giver, they were: Neville is the chosen one in the prophecy because he made it possible for V to die, Rowling talking about the magic in words via Dumbledore is awesome, the Malfoys ultimately achieve redemption for their son by putting him first, Snape's shared Patronus is super romantic, and when Harry breaks the wand, it reminded me of when Angel smashes the Gem of Amara.

It was the first time that a Thrillionaire came to visit in NY. Maclain's movie was in the Hell's Kitchen Film Festival (in which I get killed by a vampire girl off-camera) and so he flew out with his adorable wife Clare. Mac is like a brother to me. We laughed and laughed and it truly filled my soul. And Clare is awesome and has serious Settlers of Catan skillz. She won and we didn't even see it coming. Sadly, we took no pictures but I posted an old one anyway.

(This picture never actually happened. The creepy driver is Jake.)

It was the first (and let's be honest, probably last) time that I saw Celine Dion live. And Tony Bennett. And Andrea Boccelli. Ryan, Kimberly, Louise and I went to the free Andrea Boccelli concert in Central Park with ten thousand other New Yorkers. Someone threw two VIP passes at Ryan and Kimberly because they are so adorable, and we ended up doing high kicks to "Start Spreading the News" and eating baguettes and Boursin up in the swanky section. It was awesome.

Myself, Louise, and Ryan in our hastily snapped red carpet photo.

We were beyond excited.

It was the first time that I went from Sunday night to Friday night without seeing my husband for more than 15 minutes. I began to think I had made him up. When he came home on Friday at around 8:30, I thought we were being burgled. Not the best week for Ben.

It was the first time I ate 5 and a half pieces of pizza in one sitting. After Ben was released from the evil clutches of firm life, we spent Saturday evening with friends at Paulie Gee's, our new favorite pizza place. There were six of us so we got excited because that meant we could try six different pizzas! What we maybe didn't think through as much was the fact that it meant we'd be eating six different pizzas! But suriously (as Ethan says), they were super good. My favorite this time was the Del Boy that Lane got (not my Lane, a grown-up one that is super cool.)

The Del Boy, which was delawesome.

Mrs. Gee took this pic of us with Paulie himself.

All in all, it was a memorable week. I also watched some TV shows for the first time. Some good, some not so good. Confession: I liked the teenage witch show on the CW called The Secret Circle. It was actually pretty compelling. I wanted Up All Night and The New Girl to be funnier, but I realize that not every writing team can match the brilliance of Parks and Rec. It just can't be done.

Alright, everyone. Keep on keepin' on. You can do hard things. You can come to NY and eat pizza and watch 11 AM movies with me. You can! (Do it.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Blogiversary: Six Years

Back in 2005, I started blogging after a few of my friends started blogs. Through their clever writing, my friends shared amusing anecdotes and observations that delighted me to no end. I wanted to join in the fun as well. It started out as an experiment in creative writing for me, and then became much more therapeutic, as I was able to vent about my every day experiences in a safe place. Soon, many of my family members created blogs and it became a way to keep tabs on their lives. Then, all of a sudden, blogging boomed into a business and got kind of crazy. Much of it felt weird and forced and too much. I couldn't keep up with all the reading and commenting and I got overwhelmed. I backed way off.

Today, I still get stressed out by the blogging world and how in your face it is, and many days I want to take a permanent break. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that my friends are carving out their niche in the mainstream blogdom, and I think it's fabulous that people have enough time on their hands to make blogging a full time gig. For me personally, though, that would be an option with way too much pressure. As I'm writing this one post, I'm thinking of six different things I should be doing. Oh, and the public criticism. Have I mentioned that I prefer it when I think people like me?

I just have to remember who I'm mainly writing for. Not so much the public (although it does feel nice to get a little validation here and there, otherwise why would I leave my comments on?!) I mainly want to have a record for my own little family that may some day be my own big family. Both of my sets of grandparents got married once upon a time and now I can't even count how many people came from those two marriages. Pretty amazing. One of the first things I did when I found out I was moving to New York was take out my grandma's life history and pore over the chapters about their time living on Long Island. I love that I have that connection with her, fifty-something years later. Sounds kind of tangential, but those are the things that give me perspective when I get frustrated with my life.

In honor of my blogiversary, here are some of my favorite posts from those golden days of 2005:

My Little Molly

The Scary Carrot Jungle

Also, here is a link to my most favorite blog, because it is the funniest. Since I don't have much time to read blog posts these days, I gravitate toward the ones that leave me in awe of their sheer wit. I have tried to no avail to find one out there that makes me smile more than this one:

every day I write the book

And if there is someone still out there reading, why do you blog? Do you ever regret it, or am I the only crazy person? Why do you read blogs, if you do?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Speaking of Nerds...

I'm over at Modern Mormon Men today, waxing sentimental about Harry Potter. Check it out!

Who's your favorite character? Any fellow Snape devotees?

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Beauty of Nerds

Recently, I spent a few days in Washington, DC, at the home of one of my best friends from college. It was fun for me to reflect on the adventures that we used to have as roommates, the crossword puzzles that we would sneak into acting class, the agonizing over auditions, the secret crushes on fellow performers. I met Elaine on one of my very first days at BYU, as we had a voice and diction class together. I was first struck by her insane beauty and infectious smile, but after getting to know her better, I found that we had quite a number of things in common. With her passion for life and unflagging determination to succeed, she helped me get through a lot of hard days in the good old HFAC, and we celebrated each other's victories. And then one time, we walked across campus after make-up class looking like this:

Today, Elaine is still amazing. She is the wife of Mike, her high school sweetheart, who, much to my pleasure, has retained his Boston accent. She is also mother to three and a half year old Maya, who is incredibly bright and friendly and adorable. Besides her family, Elaine is devoted to yoga, gardening, healthy eating, ice cream, and is currently working on a play at a theater downtown. She's still passionate about the things and the people that she loves, and truly inspiring to me.

While hanging out with Elaine, I was reminded of what exactly it is that draws me to some people. I always hear people talking about what's "cool" or who's "cool" these days, but I have no interest in being "cool." I happen to love nerds. To you, a nerd might be a condescending term, but for me, it is a label of high praise. Nerds are passionate about something, whether it's zombies, dance, Russian literature, Ira Glass, 80's music, or baking non-gluten bread. It doesn't matter what it is, the point is to really enjoy something(s), while not being the slightest bit embarrassed about it. I think it's sad that people will hide or even squelch their passions to appear cool to others, therefore rendering them completely uninteresting. In my experience, so-called cool people are often unfunny, boring, and quick to agree.

When I think back on my nine years in improv comedy, all of the performers that were the funniest and loveliest were by far the nerdiest, and I loved the uniqueness they brought to their work. One guy was an expert on pop culture, one knew about all things fantasy, one loved sports, and my brilliant friend Lisa could improvise about sci-fi all day long (if someone had only asked!) I really miss them.

My own husband was an actual nerd in high school. While watching the amazing TV show Freaks and Geeks once, he said of one of the geeks, "It's almost painful to watch this, he's SO much like I was." It was a minor ah-ha moment for me, as he's not the most comfortable or outgoing in social situations, but still amazingly funny. I loved him all the more for it. If I have my way, I would want all my children to be nerds. Better that than a bully or follower any day. I squeal inside when my children rant and rave about Avatar and Harry Potter, because I know we're on the right nerd track!

When I meet new people out here, I love it when they let it slip that they're addicted to Veronica Mars, or on a quest for the best-tasting macarons in the city. I'm immediately interested and want to get to know them better. Being a nerd is a major part of "Being Hailey" and I'm grateful for Elaine and all the other nerds in my life, because without them, I wouldn't be who I am today.

Besides, who wouldn't want to re-enact a mock alien abduction with their best friend in college?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

I need your blog address!

When I made some changes to my blog, I accidentally deleted many of my links to the blogs of my friends and family. If you happen to stop by, would you please leave your blog url in the comments so I can re-add it to my blogroll? Thanks ever so much!

Pi(e) Night

Do you know Ryan and Kimberly Simmons? You should. They are the loveliest people on the island of Manhattan, not to mention the most stylish, theatrically-informed, and socially booked. When I get squeezed into their calendar, I rejoice, because Ryan is one of my people and sometimes I need my people around. So, to my delight, they had a pie night to celebrate 3/14 and we were invited. Kimberly just so happened to bake 52 different pies last year, one per week, and Ryan ate every single one of them. And he is still skinnier than me. So he is sort of my idol. But I think he eats salad the rest of the time, so there you go. They shared some of their favorite pies with us from last year and they definitely know how to throw a party.

The menu

The fearless hosts

Why can't I have them all?

Saturday, July 02, 2011


As mentioned in some previous posts, Ethan turned 8 recently and, on Saturday, March 12, he was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Lots of people we love were able to make it to the big city for the big event (with the exception of Ben's dad, who got horribly ill after the wedding and couldn't get on the plane with us.) It was a wonderful day and I hope he always remembers it!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Booner Got Hitched!

Daniel, affectionately known as Booner, is my brother-in-law. He is also one of my favorite people of 2011 because he decided to get married and therefore provided an excuse for my whole family to leave the icy grip of the island of Manhattan and spend four glorious days in Arizona at the beginning of March. The trip was fabulous, although we missed Jake's and Aaron's families, who were understandably holding down the forts in London and Okinawa, respectively. Booner is one of the pickiest kids ever, so I knew Lauren had to be amazing--she's an elementary school teacher and absolutely charming and we're happy to welcome her to the family! The reception was gorgeous and I danced more than I have danced in YEARS.* The deejay also said, "Holy Moly, you're a good dancer!" which was thrilling to a nerdy 30-something like myself. In addition to the wedding itself, we loved hanging out with cousins and some of us even cried when we were packing to go home. Here are some highlights from our trip:

Grandma picked us up at the airport--first time in a minivan in 6 months!

We don't care if the water's freezing! It's time for pizza and a pool party at Grandma's.

Caden, Lane, Austin and Lucy

Melanie and I went cruising in the Mustang because we cool like that.

The family dinner was at Cafe Rio, but this cake was from heaven, I think.
All of the adults after the sealing.


The original Smith fam, with Lauren.



Classic Boon expression



I just like this one of Lane for some reason.

Collin, Caden, and Ethan. Maybe Ethan's pant hems are duct taped.

Mila and Kate

The glowing bride with my three girls.

Everyone in our family that was in town! And yes, I got the memo about the appropriate color combination, but no, I didn't exert enough effort to do something about it (see: comment above about the NY winter's icy grip and take pity on me for never desiring to leave my apartment to shop.)


Everyone loves Uncle Booner!

Our family claims three sets of twins.

Boon with baby Abby

My nephews and a cousin just started break-dancing, out of nowhere. It was awesome.

Congrats, you two!

*I'm pretty sure one of my brothers-in-law has some blackmail-worthy photos of my dance moves.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Hello, lovely people. I realize I am months behind on this blog. I have so much to tell you about, like how I achieved my New York dream of meeting Tim Gunn this past Friday. But today, I am perplexed and I need your advice and moral support. You know how much of a people-pleaser I am and how I avoid confrontation like the plague. Then, listen as I share my current tale of woe:

Last Saturday morning, at around 8:45, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find a bedraggled 20-something on my doorstep. Without introduction or salutation of any kind, she proceeded to say, "I have not had a good night's sleep for over a week because of your kids. You have A LOT of kids, right? I just moved in and I really need sleep!"

To which I calmly replied: "My children were in bed until 8 AM this morning." I knew this for a fact because I went running and was surprised that no one was up and about when I returned at 8.

"Well, yeah, but it's the weekend? (She said this as if I was 3 years old and I desperately wanted to quote Grand Dame Maggie Smith and say, "What is a week-end?") So yeah, I really need to sleep in."

By this time, I was so put out by the manner in which she had patronized me that I said, nicely, "Well, good luck, good-bye," and shut the door.

I was so angry after that confrontation. I stewed about it for hours. Everyone told me to let it go. It really bothered me that she said she hadn't slept in a week. My kids are in bed from 9 at night until 7:30 in the morning, so when exactly is she trying to sleep? It bothered me that she insinuated that I was a crazy cat lady with kids instead of cats, as if I had 14 of them wandering about. The drama queen act was not going to work on me, sorry. Plus, the lovely couple (with two small children) who lived under us before her had never complained once.

So, imagine my dismay when there was pounding on my door at 8:15 this morning as we were trying to rush to leave for church. I answered the door to the same girl, and she was not happy. "I was awakened again this morning and I want you to know, I was wearing earplugs that block up to 30 decibels of sound," at which point she held up the earplugs for me to see, probably in case I didn't know what an earplug was since I spent my life making babies instead of going to school.

I said, "We are leaving in 15 minutes and then you can sleep until 12:30." But that wasn't the right answer. She continued, "I was in the hospital and I need sleep! You need to understand that you live over someone!" I then decided to calmly ask the question that had been plaguing me all week: "I'm curious, what time do you wake up in the morning when it's not the weekend?"

"7:30, because I go to work at 9. But your kids woke me up BEFORE 7:30 some days (probably like 7:15.) You just really need to know!"

I didn't know what else to say, so I just said, "OK" and shut the door as she stormed off.

Ben has said the following on the subject:

"If she stays up all night, that's not our problem."
"Tell her that firetrucks wake me up all night long and I'm mad about that, too! You live in New York, deal with it."
"She's the one who decided to move into an apartment under four children. Deal with it."

Part of me is annoyed and wonders why I should cater to someone who is clearly from the lovely rising generation of entitled kids who say, Me, ME, ME!!! She needs to learn that other people exist on the planet, right? If people are being quiet between the hours of 10 and 7, shouldn't they then have a right to walk around in their living room without fear of reproach?

But then another part of me, probably the Molly Mormon part, thinks I should do what I can to appease this girl, be a good neighbor. Do I need to buy foam and cover that with rugs? I know friends who have done that in New York, just to make the complaints stop. But we have A LOT of children, and money is tight. Covering our whole floor in rugs would be a bit pricy.

OR, I could handcuff my children in their beds until noon on the weekend and then drug them so they never dance or jump or run during the waking hours, because that's reasonable.* Is that what she wants me to do? Why does she keep coming up here?

Two things I am going to try to do are talk to my super and talk to the family who used to live beneath us. My super is the most lovely man you have ever met and he loves the twins. I just want to ask him if we are out of line making noise after 7 AM and what he would advise. The previous family moved to a 3 bedroom apartment in our same building and I just want to ask them to give me a brutally honest answer about the noise level. We have people over us ourselves, and I hear footsteps from time to time, but it's very quiet.

What do you think? I'm asking for gems of advice from your collective wisdom. Maybe the answer is that she needs therapy to work out her incredible anger issues toward small children. I just need to know if that's what I should say Ben should say to her next time I hear the pounding on the door.

*I must apologize for all the snark. I've been reading Bossypants and Tina is in my head, bless her.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


My kids used to run around the apartment with pencils or straws or anything straight they could find and shoot spells at each other. The twins' favorites were "Expelliarmus!" and "Stupefy!" Then Christmas came and the Owl Post delivered their wands and the magic intensified. So naturally, after I had come to the conclusion that I did not, in fact, have $1000 or the required energy to transport 12 kids to a bowling alley in Times Square, and I was faced with throwing a party within the walls of my own apartment (oh, the horror!), a Harry Potter theme crept into my mind like Snape on a dark, stormy night (I just had to get my favorite character into this post somehow.)

I'm no party planner. But I am an actress. Which means I'm good at stealing other peoples' creativity when it best serves me. So after scouring the inter-webs, I was able to put together what I thought would be a pretty cool party for an 8 year old HP fan.

First up, the invitations. You buy parchment paper at Target, find a cool font, make up something awesome to say, and then buy a .20 red candle at Michael's and drip the wax on the invite and seal it with a Romanian coin. That's it! And yet, one parent asked me where I ordered the invitations from and didn't believe me when I said we made them. That's the way New York parents roll. If you can't buy it custom-made, it probably doesn't exist. Imagine their disbelief if any of my countless Mormon friends who are actually talented had been involved!

Next up, the entrance to the "Gryffindor Common Room" aka our apartment. My artistic oldest daughter took the reins on this one and drew her rendition of the Fat Lady portrait. We positioned on our door, so that her actual eye was over the peephole. Creeptastic!

As the boys were arriving, we passed around a bag of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and the boys bravely bit into each one, then spit the nasty ones into a different bag. Classy? Not so much. Right up the alley of 8 year old boys? YES.

Next, the boys received wands handcrafted out of drumsticks by my step-dad, Bret, and were off to Wand Spells and Dueling class, with Mila as the very capable instructor. All the pictures of this activity were blurry, but it was an action-packed course!

I led Potions class next, which involved Pop Rocks and making bright fizzy colors come bubbling out of cauldrons. It was pretty cool, I must say!

For lunch, we had pizza and homemade butterbeer. I got the recipe from my stepsister and it was awesome! It will definitely be a new Halloween tradition.

We used Harry Potter Legos that we already had to top off the Quidditch-themed cake, and one of my favorite moments is when the boys began yelling out spells and curses in between the lines of the birthday song.

Each boy took home a goodie bag with homemade chocolate frogs (super cheap molds found on ebay), HP silly bandz, their mini cauldrons, and wands.

All in all, I'd say it was a success, even if one boy left crying. After we ran out of activities and food, I let them play Lego Harry Potter on the XBox and I think the sugar-charged competitive energy was a bit overwhelming for some of them...

It has taken me three months to write about it because it's taken me that long to recover! Just kidding, but let's just say that it's a good thing I don't have another one of these things to plan until July 2012, as my kids only have friend parties on their even-numbered birthdays. One of my best grown-up decisions ever.